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Carl Nygren
Oilman of the Year - 1979

Involvement in the Oil Industry

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Carl came to Canada from Sweden in 1928 at the age of 19. In 1929, there was "nothing doing", the Depression was starting. He found work on a farm near Lloydminster in 1933.

His involvement in the oil industry was almost accidental. He had to find a job and that’s where the jobs were. He left the farm around 1947. He recalls that the oil industry has gone up and down three times over the years.

Carl remembers that at one time you couldn’t sell the oil. Then the railways started using bunker fuel and there was a market for the product.

He worked with Barlow Bros. for one year. Then they decided to move out of this area and the workers were told they could come along. Carl stayed in Lloydminster and went to work for Keith Dawson, a small operator with two service rigs. He worked with them for two years. The operator moved to Leduc around 1949. He then worked for Clare Ross for two or three years. When Barlow Bros. were selling their pump shop, Clare approached Carl about buying the shop and going into business in 1952.

Commonwealth sold to Husky. Commonwealth had section of land with four or five wells, which were losing money, that they wanted to sell for $6,000. Clare was thinking of taking them over. On the drive to Calgary, he decided to offer them $5,000 and he got them for that price.

Carl remembers sending a letter to Husky telling them how much oil they could produce. Initially, Husky took 55% of the production. At that time, No. 1 oil was selling for $1.50 per barrel, with the lower grades selling for around $1.00 per barrel. In less than a year Husky took 70% of the wells’ production. Two to three months later, Husky took all they could produce. The price was gradually increasing. It took four to five years, but the price increased to $6.50 per barrel. The wells on this land were free-hole wells. They were fortunate to only be paying 6 ¼% royalty on the oil (of that amount Hudson Bay Oil & Gas kept 1.25% and the other 5% went to the Hudson Bay Company). If it had been the CPR or Hudson Bay who owned the mineral rights they would have been paying 15% royalty. Ross and Nygren owned the wells for about 10 years. They gradually got out of the pump shop and U.S.S. Oilwell bought them out.

Recollections

Carl recalls that the equipment they started working with was junk. You were lucky if you had winch trucks. There were no roads to speak of. Pretty well all the work was done by hand. Charlie Mills had wells south of town. These pits were dug by hand, as there was no equipment around. Mr. Nicodemus had the first caterpillar Carl saw, but you were lucky if it moved. One of the oldest rigs was just a three ton truck which Nick Ulrich had made into a service rig. He remembers reading about when they were first drilling for oil in the States, they didn’t have much equipment to work with either.

Carl remembers when Hame Garland had just come out of university and started his first job as an engineer for Husky. Carl never wore a hard hat. He recalls it was the Compensation Board which started these things. He remembers when Vic Smith had to go out and talk to the farmers about surface rights.

He believes the first oil well in this area was on the Davis place. The first oil well he knew was No.2. He commented that he doesn’t think people were too proud of their equipment, maybe that’s why they didn’t take pictures.

He recalls Stuart Wright, who was involved with the wells at Dina figured everything out on a slide rule.

In the early days, the storage tanks were on stands, so the oil would run into the trucks as they didn’t have any pumps. Being involved in the oil business was a matter of having a job and making a living.

When the Husky Refinery was built, the equipment was hauled in piece by piece from Wyoming. He remembers Bill Williams "Husky Bill" who built the refinery.

He remembers the promoter, Russell Shaw who later became the mayor of Lloydminster. Many of the promoters were from out of town. He remembers that Lloyd Clinch had wells close to their shops. Carl believes that "without the activities of the promoters going on, the field wouldn’t be where it is today."